A 13-kilometre round-trip hike in the woods might seem like a lot, but the effort to reach Norvan Falls, once of the region’s prettiest sights, is worth it. The even bigger challenge is prying your eyes away and returning home.
The five- to six-hour venture deep into Lynn Headwaters Regional Park offers multiple options, degrees of difficulty and hints of other great hikes that split off from the main trails. It’s possible to take a different hike every day of the week in this park, which is steeped in the logging history of the early 1900s. Many of the trails you’ll walk on are remnants of old logging roads.
Sturdy hiking shoes or boots are strongly recommended, along with plenty of food and water and extra clothes in case of a sudden change of weather. Take necessary safety precautions, including signing-in at the hiker registration and information board (and don’t forget to drop off your safe-return ticket when you get back). This hike is also dog-friendly, but please respect leash-on/leash-off rules.
To reach Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, take the Second Narrows Bridge and Highway One to the Mountain Highway exit, then drive uphill until you turn right at Lynn Valley Road. Follow the road until it ends at a stop sign and then ollow the signs for the park on the right. The narrow park road leads to a parking lot at the trailhead, which is usually full—if so, use one of the overflow lots and hike along the Varley Trail until you reach the main trailhead. TransLink’s 210 bus serves the Upper Lynn Valley; check translink.ca.
Refer to the map attached with this story to survey your options. After the bridge crossing Lynn Creek and stopping at the hiker registration board, you can either go left on the gravel road (which is the easier, most-direct route to Norvan Falls), or if you want a little more cardio, turn right and climb a bit for the east side of the popular Lynn Loop.
The uphill loop climbs quickly into the rain forest, lush with ferns and moss-covered trees. Most of the trees here are second-growth cedars, firs and hemlocks, which sprouted in place of the old-growth trees that didn’t survive logging. Evidence of logging is easy to see and there are numerous old stumps along the trail.
Pass an intersection for the trail to Lynn Peak (a much more strenuous climb, similar in sections to the “Grouse Grind”) and follow the main trail over small bridges and occasional muddy sections. Make a quick stop at a sign that indicates “Boulders”. Just off to the right of the trail are a few massive boulders—called “erratics”--that were dumped here by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, over 11,000 years ago.
The Loop trail flattens out slightly after the initial climb, especially after the intersection with the downhill trail for the short loop. Keep going north as the Headwaters Trail dips and rises past numerous creek beds. Two kilometres later it intersects with the Cedars Mill Trail at the rocky Third Debris Chute with its view of Lynn Creek.
You still have another two kilometres of moderate uphill hiking before reaching Norvan Falls, so if you are too tired to carry on, head back via the Cedars Mill Trail which hugs Lynn Creek four kilometres back to the parking lot.
If you’re ready to keep going, have a good drink of water and maybe a snack, then head north back into the forest. This section of trail is an overgrown logging road and can be rocky at some points, but in other spots you’ll notice you’re walking over tightly packed but deteriorating wood. This is what’s left of the old “corduroy roads” laid down by loggers to help transport equipment over rough terrain.
This is the most serene part of the hike, as most people just do the loop then head back. So enjoy the sounds of nature as you walk; birds chirping, occasional creeks, and the wind whispering through the trees.
When you pass the 6.5 km signpost, you start to hear the sound of a rushing water ahead, meaning you are close to Norvan Creek. To the left is a small cable bridge which crosses the creek on its way to the Haines Valley. But we turn right, and follow a short trail upstream for five minutes until you get your first glimpse of what all this effort was for: Norvan Falls!
Be very careful navigating around Norvan Creek for a look at the falls. The banks of the creek can be steep and slick, and some of the rocks in the creek can be very slippery. But the natural amphitheatre makes this is a perfect place to reward yourself with a rest and lunch in view of the falls, which drop close to 30 metres. On a hot day, the mist from the falls is refreshing if you want to cool down.
As mentioned earlier, leaving this picturesque setting is always tough. Leave yourself plenty of time to get back before it starts getting dark (sunset time is usually indicated at the registration board at the trailhead).
The return trip retraces your steps for the first few kilometres, which are mostly downhill. At the Third Debris Chute clearing, turn right and follow the Cedars Mill Trail for the last four kilometres, a much gentler downhill trek for your tired knees! Look out for signs and artifacts from the site of the old Cedar Mill along Lynn Creek. And near the end of the hike, you’ll see what’s left of an old four-wheel logging trailer, with trees growing through it. This shows what happens to a trailer when it is parked for over 100 years.
Mike Hanafin is an avid backcountry hiker who can see the forest and the trees. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.